Friday, July 11, 2008

Trends in Feminist Spirituality

IT’S OUR SECOND BLOGAVERSARY!!! So I thought it would be a good time to take a look at trends that have started or become more pronounced since we began this blog in July 2006.

One of the major trends I’ve noticed is a growing conscious differentiation between Pagan and Goddess, with either Goddess being a distinct path of current Paganism or Goddess being separate from Paganism–as a distinct path of its own. A growing number of people making this distinction identify as Goddessians. Many Goddess folk assert that their path differs greatly from New Age, with which it is sometimes confused.

Feeding into seeing Goddess as a distinct path of Paganism is the feeling among participants in some Pagan groups that patriarchal practices or attitudes which led them to leave Abrahamic religions have made their way into some Pagan groups. To me this is one aspect of the wider diminishing (and in some places/groups, dissing) of feminism and women’s issues, especially in the USA. I connect this with the political situation in this country in the last several years and I’m hoping this will change with the next Administration.

The latter view–Goddess as a path distinct from Paganism–I see as partly related to another important trend: Growth of Goddess Temples involved in contemporary Goddess spirituality worldwide. There are now Goddess temples with physical structures in England, the Netherlands, Australia, and the USA. Other groups are operating as Temples, but as yet without specific buildings, in Hungary and other European countries, and in Australia and North America. Many of these Temples are not affiliated with (other?) Pagan paths, but rather gather many participants under a large umbrella, focusing specifically on Goddess worship often with original, creative ritual.

Largely due to the Internet, a more global feel to contemporary Goddess religions is evolving. Reports of activities at a Temple or in a group in one locality may inspire activities at group or Temple elsewhere–or may inspire people in another locality to begin a group or Temple. With discussion groups, websites, blogs, and ezines of the Internet/Web this happens much faster, and more extensively, than it did before.

Another trend I’ve noticed is growing interest from academics in the part religion has played in society’s oppression and repression of women. Diminishing in its impact is a school of feminist thought that downplayed or denied the role that religion plays–going so far as to argue that a focus on religion was a diversion from the real work of feminism, which was seen as "political." In the last two years on one academic discussion list I’m on, for example, there has been a growing number–and steady stream–of requests for information on topics related to women and religion so that they can be incorporated into college curricula or texts. If you’re prone to make lots of lemonade, you could consider that the rise of fundamentalist Christians to political prominence in the last few years in the USA has served to make the interrelationship of politics and religion clearer not only in our own time, but historically for at least the last 5000 years in the West, as well as in the Middle East. Today in the academy, feminist/women studies professors are more likely to acknowledge the political component of religions and the role that Abrahamic religious doctrines have played in the sociopolitical repression of women.

In Christianity now, while some point out that in mainstream churches they are often fighting the same battles they thought settled decades ago , in a few instances, in both Judaism and Christianity, groups are tiptoeing towards Goddess. For example, in a Lutheran Church, a Goddess Rosary is recited on a regular basis. And a Jewish group mentored by a rabbi, has started training priestesses honoring the Shekhinah.

Have you noticed any trends I missed?


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At Friday, July 11, 2008 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Pythia said...

I do not see an awareness of this within the UUA.

I have wanted to start a blog writing my own perspectives about Goddess, sexism, feminism, my own spiritual journey, etc. However I have not found the courage to do so yet.

I have very strong passionate feelings about all this which some people will disagree with which is scary for me.

Would it be possible to connect with you via email a few times for suggestions, etc?

Thank you
Pythia Crone

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:32:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the realization that pagans everywhere actually do follow different religions, and not just "trads," is a critical development in the modern movements. For example, my offering ceremonies to Apollon and Artemis and your Goddess-centric lunar rituals have different ritual structure and vastly different theologies behind them. In both, however, women can become clergy and take an active role in their spiritual lives, which many Abrahamic faiths still lack. (In fact, in the ancient world, religion was one of the few places where women could hold substantial power.)

It's interesting that you say you see a rise in patriarchal practices. What exactly are you referring to?

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 11:51:00 AM, Blogger Alex Pendragon said...

As much as I can empathize with feminist desire to tilt worship/religious practice into the Pure Goddess/Sacred Feminine, I still equate such desires equally with fundementalist extremes that plauge most all "mainstream" religions. In MY practice of Wicca, I recognize a natural balance, a dance and compliment between the God and Goddess, each of which I consider dangerous and counterproductive without the other. Wiccan needs not suffer any guilt or blame for the patriarchy and subsequent oppression that came of the Judeo-Christian faiths, and efforts to turn it into some kind of same-sex safe harbor or feminist man-haters club only makes it no different than that it claims to stand against. Wicca, and many, many pagan paths are all inclusive, and should never be tainted with exclusivity or discrimination because of human temper tantrums or political power plays.

If I wanted that I would have remained a "good Catholic".

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Thank you for you comments pythia and anniyikka.

I don't understand your comment about the UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association?). What does the "this" refer to that you don't see an awareness of in UUA?

Regarding starting your own blog, I say just go for it! Read a number of blogs and then do your own thing. As far as I know, there is no magic secret to it ;-), and no special rules. What we do on this blog probably differs quite a bit from other blogs, as we are more community-oriented than personally-oriented. That is many blogs give the often private views and events in a person's life. We are concerned with specific subject matter and community issues. Other bloggers stop by here from time to time, and perhaps they can offer some suggestions.

Actually, and perhaps surprisingly, women can be ordained today in most sects of Christianity and Judaism. The largest holdout of course is the Roman Catholic church.

Here's where I'm coming from on my comment on patriarchal practices--and these are often hard for newcomers to pinpoint because the group may have a veneer of equality, but when you get down to analyzing behavior and beliefs, it's something else altogether. The growth of Paganism beginning in the 1970s, at least in the US,
was due in large part to the influx of women whose consciousnesses had been raised about the oppression of women in the Abrahamic religions in which they had been raised. So early on, there was more of a conscious effort to achieve equality both in the groups' practices and in their mythologies. What I have seen happen is this imperative left behind--and even men complaining about women being too powerful in these groups (even when viewed objectively, women have less power/status than the men in these groups. There have been a number of posts on Witchvox on this, if you want more specific examples.) In addition, a number of these groups'practices include hierarchies similar to those in Abrahamic faiths, and have adopted Pagan mythologies that reverse early Goddess-centered mythologies. For example, the myth of Athena emerging from the brow of Zeus is a reversal of the birth process (we are all born from women, we all come from Goddess)in the same way that Eve being "born" from Adam's rib is a reversal of that See
for a history of the Athena mythology.

Now remember, I'm not saying all Pagan groups are like this. But I am saying some. And people need to be aware that this is the case--if it's important to you.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 1:13:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Thank you for your comment, the michael. Though it appears before my response to pythia and anniyhka, I was not aware of it until after I posted that response. I understand that your views about balance are shared by many Pagans/Wiccans. I do think, however, that your characterization of groups dedicated to the Goddess as "feminist man-haters club" is not only extreme, but more importantly, inaccurate.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Congratulations on your second blogaversary. Its been good following your blog and I always look forward to an update.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 3:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats on the blogaversary! Well done!

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 5:01:00 PM, Blogger CarolynLBoyd said...

First of all, congratulations on your anniversary! I come here frequently and always find something interesting and enlightening. I also wanted to say that I love this post and agree with it completely. I have seen all these trends. My primary in-person participation with women's spiritality/Goddess is with a local organization called the Women's Well which holds circles, celebrations, workshops, etc. for women on a host of spiritual topics, including many on Goddess history and spirituality. One trend I have noticed is the real interest and desire to be part of the Women's Well by women who would probably be considered "mainstream." They are not part of the Pagan community and may continue to be part of a traditional Abrahamic religious community, but they feel the deep desire to explore that within themselves that is both sacred and female. It is amazing and touching how transformative it is for them to participate in the activities and discussions at the Well. I'm also pleasantly surprised at how often women will come by the Well's table at some community fair and say that they may not come to a lot of activities but it is deeply important to them that the Well is there for them when they really feel a need for it. This is primarly the reason why I have tried to shift some of my language and way of writing over the past couple of years. It is so important to be able to bring these women into our "circle" in a way that honors what is comfortable for them. I would be interested in whether others have seen this same interest in Goddess spirituality among a wider diversity of women.

At Saturday, July 12, 2008 5:31:00 PM, Blogger Debi Crow said...

Happy 2nd Blogiversary! :-D xxx

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 1:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Some of the stories and experiences I have heard about indicate that women in Abrahamic faiths do face strong obstacles when trying to get or maintain leadership positions and the communities' respect.

I'm very familiar with the story of Athene's birth. Feminism is something I think a lot about in my religion (Hellenic Polytheism). In fact, I wrote something on my blog KALLISTI: An Apple in Pandemonium about it back in May about misogyny in my holy texts and ethical system.

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Until quite recently, I never called myself a feminist because I didn't want to associate myself with the extremist ones. I think that a lot of women and men have this same issue, perhaps so much so that their reaction leads them to deny women power. What are your thoughts?

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 1:57:00 AM, Blogger genexs said...

Congrats on your Blogiversary.

What would you consider the single most important qualifier that would make what was formerly considered a Pagan/NeoPagan/Wiccan (or whatever) religion, a Goddessian one? Is it a question who's in charge, or who is worshipped? Also, I hate to use a loaded term, but are Goddessians 'monotheistic'? (Heh, the snake is eating its tail.) Lastly, the term seems to be sometimes used as a qualifier ("Goddessian Jews", "Goddessian Christians") and not a religion in itself. Is that enough of a cleaving point?


At Sunday, July 13, 2008 3:44:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Second Year!

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 7:20:00 AM, Blogger Geraldine Charles said...

Happy 2nd birthday! Fascinating post on Goddess religion, just added it to Goddess Pages news.


At Sunday, July 13, 2008 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Concerned Commentary said...

Congrats Medusa and Happy Blogoversary!

Having had a taste of academia myself, and knowing that marginalization still occurs whenever there are women's studies professors pursuing their own studies and spirituality sans men, I think that a separate Goddess movement is absolutely necessary.

It scares men, even pagan men, that there is a contingent of women not under their control, just as it scares patriarchal religious clergy when women "usurp" their assigned roles. Women making their own decisions while worshiping their own deities implies a rooted power that threatens to topple the hierarchy still in place even in pagan religions. I'm still, fresh from my escape from Abrahamic religions, just as turned off by male/female pagan groups as I am by patriarchal religions. I need to be away from the felt need to dominate that some of these groups still exhibit.

Balance is always necessary, sure, but I think that this "balance" can also be had in Goddess spirituality for women alone by focusing on all of the Goddess' perceived aspects, which include our limited knowledge of masculine, feminine, transexuality, etc. Without this exclusive space for women, if and until a correct balance is achieved in the world, women will continue to suffer the side effects of patriarchal hierarchies even in pagan religions. In other words, take the space first, heal, and balance will eventually come when we are ready for it.

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Medusa said...

Wow!!! A bouquet of congrats and comments since I last looked--the best blogaversary gift we could get. Thank you Paul, Mana, Carolyn, Debi, Genxs, Jezebel,and the Gorgon, and thanks also to Jason at Wildhunt for his post about this post (link below or click on linkbacks).

Those of you who left comments between last night and this morning: I will try to respond to them today. Much food for thought! Anyone else feel free to jump in with your opinions.

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 2:14:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

From what I see on our Events Coils, you are doing wonderful and important work at Women's Well. Re:"mainstream" women and making Goddess more accessible to more people, I've heard similar comments from others, particularly those involved with Goddess temples. Perhaps they will stop by and add more...

I agree with your statement the obstacles that women ordained in Abrahamic faiths encounter. Yes, many denominations are ordaining now that didn't ordain a generation ago--but it's far from an equal playing field (they have something called the "stained glass ceiling"). See my review on this blog of Sentilles' A Church of Her Own for more on this.

Regarding "feminist"--I've never shyed away from identifying as a feminist. To me it means a person who strives for and gives priority to gender equity. As in many groups (including religions and political parties) I think a whole spectrum of views is healthy, and I don't assume that one person's views represents the views of everyone in that group. Recently people (including me) have begun speaking of feminisms (pl.) rather than feminism (sing.)Try thinking of it this way: If you were a Democrat or Republican, would you avoid identifying yourself as such because you disgreed with what a few people in that party said, or the way they expressed themselves?

I have no answer for your first two questions, this is not something I've been concerned with, perhaps others will jump in. Regarding whether "Goddessian" is monotheistic--not necessarily. Some Goddessians might be monotheistic, others not. Some understand Goddess more as a metaphor and so wouldn't identify with either the "mono" or "poly" label. Some consider themselves pantheists or panentheists. Regarding the terms "Goddessian Christians" and "Goddessian Jews," actually I haven't seen the term "Goddessian" used this way. What I've seen is "Goddess Christians" and "Goddess Jews." Would be interested if you can direct me/us to a place that uses "Goddessian" in this way. My guess is that the "monotheistic" issue would vary among different people. Some people don't even see much of a distinction between monotheism and polytheism, when you get down to analyzing exactly what is being done in the religion. For example, is the worship of a Trinity in Christianity any less polytheistic than the imaging of a Triune Goddess in Paganism?

The Gorgon:
You make some profound points. Beautifully stated!!!

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 3:26:00 PM, Blogger CarolynLBoyd said...


I am just loving the discussion your post has started!

Thank you for your kind words about the Women's Well. The women really responsible for the Women's Well are the delightful Council -- other than sometimes staffing tables at community fairs, mostly I just enjoy the fruits of their all they do.

But I also wanted to add that I think that your blog and other sites like it are so important as a means for women to get started on their "Goddess path." For women who may not live near an organization or a temple or who may be in a family or community that wouldn't support attending one, the internet may be the only place where they can find a Goddess community. Of course, not every woman can afford a computer or internet connection, but most have access to a library with an internet connection. Blogs such as yours and other sites are, I think, immensely important in getting the word out.

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 3:40:00 PM, Blogger Ketzirah (Carly) said...

Happy anniversary and may many more follow.

I guess this all depends on definitions. I would say that Goddess traditions fall under the large Pagan umbrella. The problem is that few people will agree on the definition of Pagan.

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 9:11:00 PM, Blogger labyrs said...

just a shout out to all...thanks for a great 2 years & a great celebration!

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 9:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I see your point now, but I wouldn't have a few months ago. And the sad thing is that there are still a lot of women who are unable to move away from that rut I found myself in, dissatisfied with the male-dominated world and hesitant to call herself a feminist.

The work you do here is important, though. Thanks for helping to raise awareness of women's spirituality. :)

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 10:41:00 PM, Blogger Byron said...

Blessings on your anniversary--so many marvelous words, thoughts, passons here, for which I am grateful.

I also want to let you know of yet another Temple a-brewing here in the mountains of NC. A group of 8 women came together as an exploratory circle and now we are full steam ahead to build a Goddess Temple here, of cob construction, with our own (and many other) hands. This is a place where people of all genders and spiritual traditions can celebrate the Goddess openly and in safety.

And we are jazzed! True to form in our Goddess communities, we're having a potluck this week to weave in more members of the community, more hearts, more allies.

Again, many happy returns of this day!

Best wishes,
Byron Ballard, the Village Witch

At Sunday, July 13, 2008 11:00:00 PM, Blogger Medusa said...

Great news about your Temple plans--Hope you'll keep us informed!

I very much enjoy following your blog (The Village Witch)in the Ashville,NC, Citizen-Times. Stereotypical ideas I had about NC are definitely being challenged by your progress.

At Monday, July 14, 2008 10:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like this blog, and I'm working through your back-posts. Happy Blogaversary! Many more to you!

Here in Britain we have watched with chagrin the emergent tussle over the Anglican Church's proposal to ordain women as bishops. It's quite true, as you say, that fights that were deemed sorted a decade ago can still rear up - and for no better reason than dogma, just like last time. Women, who have such a potent and spiritual message, are a force for great change and energy, are still not wholly welcome as ministers.

I do agree that a balance between the male:female god:goddess is the ideal - but we're still fighting for a chance to be equal, not simply over the balance itself.

More power to you - Blessings! TGW

At Tuesday, July 15, 2008 9:12:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah Judith isn't this great! - good discussion. and happy Blogaversary! we must have launched real close to each other ... has it's 2nd birthday on August 6th. :)

Anyway ... to one of your points: about feminist thought that downplayed/denied the role that religion plays. It is indeed a diminishing school of thought. When I gave a paper in 1980 at a Women and Labour Conference in Melbourne Australia on "Women and Religion", it attracted national press attention but was not regarded as important enough by the conference organisers to publish in the conference proceedings: they virtually ignored me, and did ignore others who tried to make religion part of the agenda before me. The "political" feminists did not want to know - they still bought the dualistic (patriarchal mind) split. I think that dualistic split has been seen much more clearly now, and there is more clearly an embrace of wholistic thinking - the knitting together of mind and matter ( Maternal philosophy/thinking) ... even in academia! Many these days are getting Ph.D.'s and M.A.'s using intuitive, participative and organic methods of research ... not without a little resistance in some places, but it is happening.

I did a rave over at Wild Hunt about "Goddess" and "Pagan" ... and in the end referred to my "Sacred Image- July Moon" news item, the first paragraph of which is serendipitously related to this discussion
When the Land Herself is held sacred ... isn't that what Pagans do? - then "She" is no problem. According to my understanding of "Pagan" - "Earth-based religious practice" - the Land Herself is Deity, and it is usually female metaphor. it is not necessary sure ... but most do it .. even secular language refers to Mother Nature. Monotheistic God religions have tried to ignore the Lap upon which we all sit - escape the Matter. But we all have belly-buttons! Oh woe! our Nativity - Navel Origin -is apparent.



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